Lassoing A Bear: My First Art CritiquePosted: January 5, 2011
Today, we will go together where I have never been. I ask you to join me in a special moment – my first venture into the field of art criticism.
Some might wonder what my qualifications are as an art critic. The truth is, I have no training in producing or assessing visual art. I have not taken an art class since 5th grade. The last piece of art I produced was a clay cup in that 5th grade class.
My mom still has that cup because she is my mom and not an art critic, like her son. Mom is great.
Hi, My Name Is Art
The painting that we will discuss today is a mural. The artist of this piece remains anonymous. He did sign the painting, but his signature is hidden behind a Health Department Score placard. Today’s subject is the mural behind the register of a diner near my office.
As you can see, the painting depicts several cowboys on their horses in the mountains. There are no cows around. Two of the cowboys are working together to lasso a bear.
Look at the horse of the cowboy on the left. Is that a horse, or is that famous Budweiser Spokesdog Spuds McKenzie?
I like the artist’s choice to depict the horse without a tail. He leaves the question for us to answer. Did the bear take the horses tail, or is this some sort of equine fashion choice? Any painter can create an accurate reproduction of a horse with all its anatomical features. Only a true visionary can use the missing tail as a metaphor for the disconnect between the social strata of our society.
On the other side of the painting we see the second cowboy, whose lasso is already around the bear’s ankle. This cowboy’s right leg is missing, replaced by an impractical and pointy prosthetic device. The artist is reaching out to our hearts and minds by choosing to depict this cowboy as an amputee.
Don’t we all want a fair shake for the handicapped? Here is a man who has lost a limb, perhaps in cotton gin accident back east. Despite his tragedy, he wants only an equal chance to earn a living. He finds that chance in a most unexpected place and he excels. I like the message this painting sends to the cowboy industry: on horseback, we are all the same height.
Now we move to the central character of the piece, the bear. The bear is rendered with a properly confused face. He is not really angry yet, just more stunned by being lassoed and pulled off balance. If he could speak, he would ask the question we all would like answered about this picture – why? Why lasso a bear?
And what of the two cowpokes depicted in the distance? They remain seated on their horses, but make no effort to help their comrades. Perhaps they are trying to determine why their friends think this is a good idea. The cowboy on the right has his arm extended. I’d like to think that he is looking up the number of the Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals on his cell phone, but we know from the period of the painting that this would not have been possible. Besides, up there in the mountains, you know the reception would be awful.
I can only conclude that these two distant cowboys are cowards. They see what is going on, but they make no effort to dissuade their friends or get help from someone who could put a stop to it. Blinded by loyalty, they are complicit in the act of those they associate with.
My innovation in art criticism is the analysis of the tactics and strategy employed by the characters in the painting.
In this situation, the cowboys are involved in an unnecessary and cruel act. Why are they hassling this bear? There are no cows in the area to protect. There’s no point to what they’re doing.
It could be argued that the cows are not in the scope of the painting, but exist outside the plane of the work. So, if the bear was attacking the livestock these gentlemen were obliged to protect the cattle by the expectations of their employer, is lassoing the bear the best choice? Assuming the men get the bear lassoed, their options are limited. Perhaps the next step is tying the bear to a chair.
Finally, consider the trust level required between the cowboys to take on this task. If you and I were cowboys (cowpersons?) lassoing a bear, you are in a great deal of trouble if you lasso the bear and I miss. Is there anyone on the planet whose lasso skills you respect so highly that you could count on them as a bear roping teammate?
This painting is awful. Actually, it makes awful look good. Could I paint a horse better than the anonymous painter of “Roping A Bear”? No. But do I know a ridiculous exercise in acrylics when I see one – and this is exactly that.
I throw it open to you, my fellow art aficionados. Please assess “Lassoing A Bear”. What do you think? Does this painting need a broader audience, or a good going over with a paint roller?
- Can golden eagles kill grizzly bears (wiki.answers.com)